Will the cloud mean joblessness for you?
Cut the hype and keep it real
You’ve heard the rhetoric: Cloud computing changes everything. The days of the enterprise data centre and the small business computer room are numbered. At some point in the not too distant future, you’ll be switching off the last server, turning out the lights, and looking for a career change.
The sad thing is that some people really believe all this. And it’s a great story to write about if you are a journalist too. Disruption of the status quo, with traditional infrastructure and software vendors being usurped by the likes of Amazon, Google and Salesforce.com, and some juicy scaremongering about whether your job will be safe in the future.
So what’s the reality?
Well there are two main things going on under the cloud computing banner. The first is the continued evolution of technology to enable more efficient and flexible infrastructure to be built, largely based on the concepts of virtualisation and resource-pooling. These approaches can be used in-house to create a more dynamic IT environment that, over time, can reduce costs, boost the responsiveness to new and changing requirements, and, as importantly, make the lives of IT professionals easier in many respects.
These same developments allow service providers to pretty much do the same in their data centres – ie reduce costs and increase flexibility. This in turn changes some of the economics and practicalities of hosting, which potentially shifts the line in terms of what it is feasible, desirable and sensible to outsource from an enterprise IT perspective. With the trends we are seeing, despite the prejudices and genuine risks associated with the hosted service model, it would seem reasonable to assume an increase in the uptake of hosted services as time goes on.
The point is, though, that a lot of what runs across your existing IT landscape today is actually very predictable and probably doesn’t need the extreme flexibility touted by cloud technology and service vendors. Traditional infrastructure and hosting models will therefore co-exist with dynamic ‘private clouds’ and ‘on demand’ or ‘elastic’ cloud services for the foreseeable future.
Contrary to the aforementioned rhetoric, this means that the role of the IT professional will become even more important. When things are working across computing models and domains, often crossing the in-house/service provider boundary, you’re going to need more skill and experience to make sure it all hangs together, not less.
This is something we explore in our latest paper, Applied Cloud Computing. In the paper we talk about managing the additional complexity and risk that is inevitable as organisations take advantage of some of the developments we have been discussing. The need for more robustly defined architectural standards, security policy and operational process that can cope with cross-domain integration and dependencies means that far from de-skilling, some IT departments may even have to up their game.
If you have any views on this yourself, let us know. Meanwhile, if you are interested in reading more, the abovementioned paper can be downloaded here ®.
Death of this, death of that...
In the 20 odd years I've been bluffing my way in IT, the death of <insert platform/language/whatever> has been a recurring theme - thin clients will kill desktops, Java will kill platform specific programming, clouds will kill data centers.
No, they won't - at least, not yet. In my very limited experiences, what I've seen is that new technologies get incorporated in an additional scenario - the new technology gets deployed alongside the older technology (I refuse to call any technology under my own age as old, so Cobol is still cutting edge, okay?), and we get a synergy, or at least, an expanded total.
Maybe certain technologies do get largely superceded - but I still see impact printers working alongside daisy printers, I still have various old CRT monitors lying around because I need them for my work (don't ask), and so IM(very)HO, there will be a need for some reskilling, but the old techniques will still be required.
I'm reminded of a crap joke...
A man has cancer, and just before he dies, his relatives have him preserved in liquid helium.
From his perception, he just wakes up, and wonders where he is, and a guy comes in and says "Amazing, we didn't think it was going to work, but we're desparate, and spent all our resources to revive you because John, we need you - it's the year 9999, and we understand that you're a COBOL programmer..."
It's the old integration chestnut
Cloud or no cloud, it's the old integration chestnut all over again:
PHB: We're going to outsource service X because it will cost us less to run it via a third party as we'll have fewer systems to support.
IT: How do we integrate the outsourced service into our current processes?
PHB: We will integrate it with existing in-house infrastructure using state of the art SOA technology!
IT: So we need to upgrade our well-known predictable in-house systems to be able to integrate with unknown unpredictable external systems and we need to connect them over an unreliable and unpredictable network known as the internet?
PHB: That's fine, we're hiring highly skilled consultants to do the job.
Not that I've been here before, you understand...
It gets even better...
...try explaining all of that to them right after the local road construction crew accidentally cuts the fiber trunk.
I figure it'd be about five minutes between that explanation (no matter what explanation) and the IT director getting sacked.